All Aboard the Kyle Kuzma Hype Train
Lonzo Ball? Brandon Ingram? Julius Randle?
No, it’s the Kyle Kuzma show.
Drafted 27th in this year's NBA draft, Kuzma's play has the league buzzing on how he slipped that far into the draft. Instead of just accepting the fact he has made it into the NBA and acknowledging a spectator role on the sidelines, Kuzma has shown the Lakers front office he is far ahead of the NBA learning curve. Kuz has shattered expectations to not only the Lakers fans, but scouts around the league as well. The Lakers knew they liked Kuzma a lot, where they scouted him closely in the Chicago draft combine. But Laker President Magic Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka did not think his game would evolve this soon, this good.
“I’ll tell you, the steal of the draft is going to be Kyle Kuzma. The young man can shoot the basketball, he also can put it down on the floor and create for himself or for his teammates.”
- Magic on Kyle Kuzma
From a fringe second-round prospect, to seeing his stock rise at the NBA Combine, to a first-round pick, to what is now a NBA rookie standout, Kyle Kuzma has received the hype he deserves.
Through 5 preseason games, Kuz has averaged 18.4 PPG 4.2 RPG 1.2 APG on 55% FG with 1.8 3-pointers. Kuzma’s ability to impact the game as a rookie is a remarkably positive sign for his prospects in the NBA. Aside from the fact he can really shoot the ball as a tweener stretch 4, he has shown the agility and quickness to play the small forward position. Kuzma has been impressive in his not only his ability to score the basketball, but also make the proper basketball read. The former First Team All-Pac-12 selection has been excellent in utilizing spin moves in the post, as well as using his quickness and nimble feet to create plays off the dribble.
Yes, Lonzo Ball is still the most anticipated Laker right now, and Brandon Ingram is still being viewed as the next young Laker to carry the franchise. However, the stellar play of Kyle Kuzma leading on from summer league to the preseason has forced coach Luke Walton to give Kuzma extra minutes. Kuzma is a great fit to Walton's system, where he is versatile enough to play multiple positions. It's safe to say Kuzma has carved out a role ahead of veterans such as Luol Deng and Corey Brewer.
The Lakers will use this season to evaluate Julius Randle’s value to the team, to see if he is truly worth a max contract in which he will be eligible for next summer. Despite of Kuzma’s play, he has yet to win over the position battle from Larry Nance or Julius Randle just yet. However, it has definitely warranted the Laker brass that they are expendable.
Kuzma’s emergence has been somewhat of a lone spot light for the Lakers so far. Lonzo Ball is dealing with an ankle injury and doesn’t quite seem adjusted yet with the NBA level. Julius Randle’s terrific shape has been a great topic, but aside from racking up stats, nothing is making us believe it can translate to team success. And Brandon Ingram’s preseason has been a nightmare, where is he averaging 9.3 points per game on 31% shooting.
Surely, it’s just preseason and there is an abundance of overreactions to box scores in exhibition play. However, Kyle Kuzma definitely passes the eye test. That has carried over from the summer league, carried over to practices, preseason, and surely the regular season. Kyle Kuzma has earned his minutes. And eventually, a starting gig is definitely within reach.
“Everybody’s a doubter at one point, and everybody wants to hop on the bandwagon,” he said. “That’s just how life is: You just gotta prove people wrong.”